By the time you finish reading this column, Jamaicans will be done breaking the speed of light on the Olympic track. For almost fifty years, this little dot in the Caribbean Sea has made an indelible mark on the world stage in the fields of music, athletics, academia, and international diplomacy, among others. Jamaica has made these contributions in extraordinary part through the export of its people to the farthest corners of the Earth, in particular to the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States of America.
This year, Jamaica grows up to claim 50 years of independence. This is far from being middle aged in the context of global maturity. For decades, Jamaicans have traveled the world for various migratory reasons, including involuntary servitude, provision of labor, pursuit of higher education, or family unity. Whatever the reason, our footprints leave cultural fossils in every nook and cranny of communities worldwide. Our personalities are undeniably present and full of impact.
As a diaspora, Jamaica is at the forefront in forging an experiment to marshal the talents and resources of Jamaican nationals and persons of Jamaican descent for the greater good of Jamaica, but also for the betterment of the local communities where Jamaicans have resided for decades. Every facet of our society, at home and abroad, is impacted in some manner through the diaspora experience – health, education, national security, environment, tourism, arts & culture, disaster preparedness, and trade and investment, among others. The diaspora experience is one that embodies an emotional tug of war between the land of birth or heritage and the land of adoption.
In the context of the United States, Jamaicans have inserted their cultural influences primarily in communities and neighborhoods in the states of New York, Florida, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Texas, Georgia, California, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Today, we are conservatively well over 1.5 million strong in the United States, and growing. This bodes well for the next generation of Jamaican-Americans who can boast of holding homage to the heritage of two of the world’s most recognizable and powerful country brands: America and Jamaica.
Both of these brands will have toiled for supremacy on the Olympic track, with even one of the American stars Sanya Richards-Ross, bearing Jamaican blood flowing through her veins. The Olympic track and field finals and the Penn Relays are two ground zero venues for the clash of global personalities. It is all in great fun and rivalry.